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Who Needs XFree86? 269

An anonymous reader writes "With this review Linux and Main says it is kicking off a project to put together a Linux machine that operates entirely in the console, including applications, without the user ever having to enter anything at a command prompt. The review is of Twin, the very cool windowing environment for the console. Applications will be added over time, and readers are invited to nominate their favorite little-known console applications."
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Who Needs XFree86?

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  • by eludom ( 83727 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @06:45AM (#5879976) Homepage
    In my experience, firing up a windowing system
    tends to reduce productivity. A simple text
    based console app allows you to focus w/o

    In years past, I knew of someone who used
    emacs as his login shell :-)

  • kind of neat (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    it reminds me of the early 286 days just before GEOS game around wayyyy before windows... norton commander looked very much like that (without the adding of applications)

    Me? I think X is fine... If I can scale it down to fit on a floppy WITH my kernel and ramfs filesystem (tinyx) then it's perfect for me.
  • AA support? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Libor Vanek ( 248963 ) <> on Monday May 05, 2003 @06:46AM (#5879981) Homepage
    Does it support AA and alpha chanell? .-)
  • This is cool. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by k03 kalle ( 669378 )
    This is probably one of the coolest things I have seen in a long time. The possibilities are endless.

    If you have an older box, you can make it a very serviceable desktop. My only question is, does anyone have any information on the kind of resources it requires?
    • Re:This is cool. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jgerman ( 106518 )
      Due to the unfairness of you being labelled a troll, and the fact that I have no current modpoints to fix the situation figured I'd weigh in in agreement. This is a cool thing, I don't know if it's cool enough to replace ratpoison for me. Keyboard shortcuts are a big plus, I'm going to have to take a good look at Twin (and the source) to see how much can be keyboard controlled or added easily.

      I'm assuming the resource use is pretty minimal, even the version running under X, and I believe there are some s

  • Ah memories... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by miketang16 ( 585602 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @06:50AM (#5879993) Journal
    Reminds me of the old Windows 1.0 days... Looked just like that, except not as advanced. This looks pretty cool/useful,if you're going to be using console. Personally, console always holds a special place in my heart. =D
    • Re:Ah memories... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Richard W.M. Jones ( 591125 ) <rich@ann[ ] ['exi' in gap]> on Monday May 05, 2003 @07:19AM (#5880114) Homepage

      Reminds me of the old Windows 1.0 days... Looked just like that, except not as advanced.

      Actually it looks very little like Windows 1.0 (speaking as someone who actually used it - for work). Windows 1.0 didn't have overlapping windows, but was graphical. Twin is the opposite way around.

      It is very strongly reminiscent of Quarterdeck's DESQview, screenshots circa 1988. It could run textual and graphical apps side by side - pretty revolutionary (in the PeeCee world) for the time.


  • Two questions (Score:4, Insightful)

    by lexcyber ( 133454 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @06:53AM (#5880008) Homepage
    1. I dont need a windowsystem on a server, console (commandline) works fine.

    2. If I am going to use the box as a workstation, why do I want to use something ugly that makes my eyes bleed?

    I can't find a valid use for this sort of system. Can anyone?

    • Re:Two questions (Score:2, Insightful)

      by k03 kalle ( 669378 )
      Yeah, cost.

      Imagine this:

      You buy 20 10$ 333mhz computers off Ebay or some cheap wholesale outlet.

      Retrofit them with BSD/Linux/Whatever, put this on it as the primary interaction with the machine, and install all these computers in a programming class or something.

      Now you have a very effective, efficient, and very affordable computer lab for a school. For 200$, you have just created a whole computer lab. Dell tries to sell schools cheap computers for 1500$.

      • Re:Two questions (Score:4, Informative)

        by arvindn ( 542080 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @07:31AM (#5880163) Homepage Journal

        You can easily run X on a 333 Mhz machine.

        I use a PII 333 as my server and desktop, and I have very little incentive to upgrade.

        If you want to give an example of a bitty box you can't run X on, pick something lower down in the pecking order.

        • Re:Two questions (Score:3, Interesting)

          by hackstraw ( 262471 ) *
          I run X on an AMD 100MHZ chip at home. I have no complaints about the performace of X (I use WindowMaker, not KDE or Gnome). Its only Netscape's horrible rendering engine that kills me on nested tables. Otherwise the box works fine for what I use it for (a firewall and a modem).
      • Hey, I ran X with Gnome 1.x and Enlightenment on an AMD K5-133 (~100MHz), with 128MB RAM and an S3 Virge, for about a year. A little slow at times, but fine for everyday use.
        • Ha. I ran X on a 386/40 with 8MB RAM and a Hercules monochrome card.

          Of course, I only did it once. It had to swap just to blank the screen.

          • Ow. Why, exactly -- "because it was there"? :)

            (The X protocol isn't so heavyweight that it couldn't be implemented above a lightweight OS on a machine with those sort of specs, though, is it? XFree, Linux, et. al. are pretty chunky in terms of resources required (you'll have to excuse me, my standards of machine were set back in the 8-bit days :), but that doesn't invalidate the X system itself.)
      • If you use suitable applications, you can run X with no noticable lag on a 90 MHz Pentium that's also acting as a server. Sure, running X takes a top-of-the-line computer, but it's a top-of-the-line computer from 8 years ago. I've still got mine on the desk next to me; I'm not using it for my display any more only because it doesn't support a nice resolution with an 8 year old graphics card, and because, while X is blazingly fast, compilers are not.

        Of course, you can't run OpenOffice on your 90 Mhz machine
    • Yeah. A full desktop for remote access. Have you tried running VNC (even tight VNC) at work when you want to access your box at home that has a 2Mb/400Kb cable modem connction? If you haven't, you'll have to trust me when I say it's ssslllllllooooowwww and consumes much bandwidth.

      This thing is text mode, so in theory you could run it over a terminal window, right? This would be MUCH faster. Midnight Commander runs *great* in PuTTY, for instance.

      And I don't think its so ugly. It kinda reminds me of m
      • Instead of running VNC why not run X over ssh; a megabit would be fine to run applications (wouldn't exactly run my WM over 1mbit)...
        VNC wastes a lot of bandwidth transferring stuff that could be done by the local workstation (colors, shapes etc.)...
        • First off, cable is asymetric. Bright House limits me to 400Kbps upstream (2Mbps down), and its gonna get worse because when I move next month, Comcast is giving me only 128Kbps upstream.

          Secondly, X is decidely not a very secure protocol. You can run X over SSH, sure but you've still gotta have the X ports open on your firewall, which in my book, is a bit scary.

          • Re:Two questions (Score:3, Informative)

            by cyb97 ( 520582 )
            Not if you use SSH with X-forwarding, all the X traffic travels through the ssh-tunnel. (Hence ssh sets your display-env to localhost:10.0-etc so everything is as secure as your SSH-session)
    • 2. If I am going to use the box as a workstation, why do I want to use something ugly that makes my eyes bleed?

      Sorry, that's just the way they make those Mac cases... *ducks*

    • Re:Two questions (Score:2, Insightful)

      by emmetropia ( 527623 )
      I think I agree that, while this is a *neat* way of doing things, it's exactly what linux *doesn't* need. I constantly read people bickering and ranting about bringing linux to the desktop, and as effecient a means this may be, the only people it would be practical for would be *nix vetrans, who already have experience, and old hardware they don't want to try and run X on. As far as servers go, I know I use 100% command line, I just don't need a window manager to edit conf files. New users to linux will w
      • Re:Two questions (Score:3, Insightful)

        by buysse ( 5473 )
        Here's what I don't get about these discussions about why somebody "shouldn't" work on something like Twin -- why does it matter? Someone who wants a pretty gui is not going to use this. I really can't think of anyone who will (other than the people programming it and a few old DesqView junkies), but why does it prevent you or anyone else from using X11/Gnome or X11/KDE?

        Open source isn't about taking over the world, not for most of the people who actually contribute to it (as opposed to the leeches who

    • Nostalgia for those old TRS-80s?
    • I can't find a valid use for this sort of system. Can anyone?

      Apart from the old "more choice is better" argument, I firmly believe we should celebrate lean systems and minimalist configurations.

      The screenshots of Twin brought back memories of running DESQView on DOS. Now that was a kick-ass program. And I never felt cramped in my 80x25 character screen.

      This reminds me of an old DOS text editor. It was fairly full-featured (better than DOS's own EDIT program). The really cool thing was that is took

  • by markov_chain ( 202465 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @06:54AM (#5880010) Homepage
    Count the flashbacks to Turbovision!

  • I do. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I need X because administration of Solaris machines all but requires it. If you want to use any of the tools that Sun provides to make life easier (not knocking Sun, they do make life easier), then you need a machine running X.
  • In my day, I also programmed an app similar to Twin for DOS on my old comp. It was a pseudo-graphical app I used to login, launch programs, etc. it was basically my hub from which I did other things. Even had a screensaver (it was basically the date and time wandering accross the screen). Then I got a 286 with Windows 3.1 and forgot all about it (though I still used a different version of it whenever I got back to DOS, or during startup).

    I basically forgot all about it when I got a Pentium with Win95 and S
  • I need XFree86. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by *coughs loudly* ( 301749 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @07:03AM (#5880049)
    Dude, portability. As Zawinski put it, writing as an SGI user;

    "Of course, all of the software I write runs on Linux; that's the beauty of standards, and of cross-platform code. I don't have to run your OS, and you don't have to run mine, and we can use the same applications anyway!"

    XFree86 is conservative & lazy with regard to new features; as long as it implements the X protocol, who cares?
  • Directfb/fresco? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 05, 2003 @07:05AM (#5880052)
    These two projects are trying to develop "real" alternatives to X.

    Fresco is dead, but Directfb already has full gnome support, X emulation, mplayer support, alpha blending, and hardware accelleration and because it uses the same technology as the penguin logo on bootup, its fast!. This is a REAL alternative to X, and I hope you give it more support.

    Directfb homepage []
    • by p00ya ( 579445 )
      I think saying fresco [] is "dead" is a little harsh. They're still releasing (M2 came out 2003-03-04), but development is slow and I think Duke Nukem Forever and e20 will be released before fresco could make itself a replacement for the maturing X11-based desktops. Hopefully the project will develop the framework to a point where its possible to start writing new applications.

      As for now, I'll stick with xp and fluxbox. And OSX when I save the money for a mac heh. However, I'll continue to support direct

      • Re:Directfb/fresco? (Score:2, Interesting)

        by vadim_t ( 324782 )
        VESA FB is painfully slow indeed. You can see the slowness when scrolling text in less(1)

        Now, if you have a card that's supported natively it's going to be fast, maybe as fast as the text console. I've been using the rivafb driver for a while and it was fast, but it conflicts with the binary nvidia drivers.
      • >>However, I'll continue to support directFB and fresco over XFree86 just so that the projects get the much deserved attention that is essential to their success.

        Ehm.... fresco gets a lot of attention for a project that goes on for many years and did not deliver any stable code... actually much more attention than many projects that are useful today. And the real work on fresco has not even begun, after all you need applications...
    • Isn't the reason they stoped developing X because nobody was able to keep up, still don't think We've fully caught up to X11R6.
      Why do we need another graphical alternative??
    • Drivers! DirectFB needs drivers!
    • It sure looks nice, but it also looks like DirectFB is Linux-only. It is a pity, because (IMO) any X replacement will need to be multi-platform.
      • It sure looks nice, but it also looks like DirectFB is Linux-only. It is a pity, because (IMO) any X replacement will need to be multi-platform.
        Can anybody familiar with their API shed some light on how hard is it tied to Linux? Their page says that they have software fallbacks for every graphics operation that is not supported by the underlying hardware - this could mean that porting is relatively easy.
      • XDirectFB (not to be confused with DirectFB, which is the general library it uses) only has accelerated drivers for Matrox cards, and a few others.

        The whole point of it is acceleration. Video cards that haven't released a single spec as to HOW to excelerate them can't really expect an accelerated driver, can they?

        However, it works with any system that has a framebuffer, though it's slow as molasses. If you have openGL on your card, you can use it regardless of the type, so that should be pretty portable
    • Directfb already has full gnome support, X emulation

      I think "X emulation" is a bit of a misnomer. X is just a specification for communications between an application and the graphics server. If an X11 application can connect to Directfb via X11 and display it's UI, then Directfb is X, just as much as Xfree86, Sun X11, Exceed (and XWin32, and the multitude of other X servers available for MS Windows), etc.

    • Can it run an app on one server and display the output on another machine like X? If not, it's useless (at least in my mind)
  • by lpontiac ( 173839 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @07:05AM (#5880053)

    Last time I looked at it, TWIN needed an X server or a pure Linux console - as in literally sitting in front of a machine running Linux on the keyboard. Telnetting or SSHing in wouldn't work.

    Obviously, TWIN is so much faster than X because X can work over a network, and TWIN can't. How many people use network transparency anyway? Down with X!

    Hint: this was a joke

  • Another angle.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jocks ( 56885 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @07:09AM (#5880068) Homepage
    The one of the ways for visually impaired people to use computers is via "braille screens", which in themselves struggle to render graphical displays.
    This work will have the important consequence that visually impaired people will be able to do more than they currently can, the collection will make it much simpler to select the applications available. Great work which will make the world a better place.
  • Anybody who works with graphics.
  • and can be used as server for remote clients in the same style as X11

    Does this mean it is actually an X server? Will it display any X application (ie netscape etc) in text mode? When he says the same 'style' does he mean it is compatible with the X11 protocol, or just similar?
  • Sound Like: (Score:3, Funny)

    by jpmahala ( 181937 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @07:15AM (#5880091)
    The Command Line is Dead!

    Long Live the Command Line!

  • there was a DOS application called Desqview back in the early 90s that allowed DOS to be a multy tasking enviroment. It aparance was simular to this in design, where you can have a windows like environment with out the gui.
    • "there was a DOS application called Desqview back in the early 90s that allowed DOS to be a multy tasking enviroment. It aparance was simular to this in design, where you can have a windows like environment with out the gui."

      I Remember it. I used DesqView386(Which came with QEMM 8.x I think) on my (m)BBS in 93 or so, so I could be able to run two or more nodes on a single computer.

      One of the most interesting things in Desqview, was that you could actually run MS Windows 3.1 (in realmode) inside it, in
  • by g4dget ( 579145 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @07:31AM (#5880158)
    back when most people were computing on vt100s, there were a number of toolkits like that. vt100s even have built in support for text windows.
  • Favorite console app (Score:3, Informative)

    by jon787 ( 512497 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @07:32AM (#5880165) Homepage Journal
    Bitchx, screen, links, ntaim, and vim.
    • Mine include screen, but irssi for IRC, and also, bitlbee [], which is not really a console app, but more of a deamon. It is based on Gaim, and it provides an IRC server in which the channel #bitlbee is your contact list. To message someone, you just either /msg them or write their name followed by a colon and then your message. Great for MSN/ICQ/AIM over ssh when used with bitchx or irssi !
  • I use XFree86 just as a way of having mutliple consoles in a way I like to work. Yeah I could use screen if I wanted. However what about if I want to browse a web page such as my online photo gallery? Also taking performance of any moderm graphics card surely XFree is fast enough in 2D mode

  • Currently, I have an old laptop that I have been using for java development no less. I don't have X installed... just vim, j2sdk, and ant. Does everything I want. I have found that I am more productive. I tend to be one of those who tinkers with settings, etc, and becomes distracted. Not the case while developing in console mode. It may not be pretty, but I am productive. Also, being that the laptop is an IBM thinkpad with one of those wretched pointing devices in the center of the keyboard, it is de
  • My Pick (Score:5, Informative)

    by RAMMS+EIN ( 578166 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @08:24AM (#5880463) Homepage Journal
    I move around a lot, and use SSH to log into my machine at home to continue working where I left off. The apps I use:

    vi - IMO _the_ example of bad interface design, but it's fast once you know how to use it (actually, I use elvis, but I guess any vi-clone would do)

    mutt - it's just fantastic. A little harder to use than pine, but a lot easier when you have many mailboxen (I have some maildirs and a couple of IMAP accounts)

    w3m - ideal if you are on a slow machine. When run under X11 or on the framebuffer, it renders images, too

    centericq - all major protocols, and file transfers. This is a program that would benefit from a point-and-click interface, though.

    mp3blaster - Housemates flee in terror as the computer suddenly starts playing music while no operator is around ;-) Supports Ogg Vorbis and MP3

    dcd - Yes, I have audio CDs, too

    cdrecord - burning those ISOs so I can propagate Free software

    abcde - Rip your audio cd, look up the track names (CDDB), and encode to your favorite format - with one command!

    And, of course, the usual Unix commands, C compiler, yada, yada.


    Qui in ventem urinat, se lavare constat.

    • > I move around a lot, and use SSH to log into my machine at home to continue working where I left off. The apps I use: ... centericq ... mp3blaster ... dcd ... cdrecord ... abcde ...


  • Alternatively... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ed Avis ( 5917 ) <> on Monday May 05, 2003 @08:42AM (#5880590) Homepage
    If you want to switch between console applications but you don't need a 'windowing' environment, you can use screen(1). What I do is this on every ssh login:

    % exec screen -E '^Z^Z' -D -R

    This brings up my applications exactly how I left them last time. Then C-z c starts a new screen, C-z 0 through C-z 9 switches between screens, C-z C-z sends a literal ^Z, and C-z d disconnects. I normally have pine running in terminal zero, XEmacs in terminal one, then top(1) and maybe a shell in two more terminals. This is much handier than having to start applications every time you log in, and essential over a noisy modem line where the ssh connection might suddenly cut out. If it does, just reconnect, run the above command and everything is just as you left it.

    Speaking of Emacs, you can do most things inside that including making shell and terminal buffers, so in a way it provides a windowing system like Twin.
    • Ratpoison (Score:3, Informative)

      And for those occasions when you do need a graphical X program, use the ratpoison [] window manager. It's a no-nonsense, no bloat, no mouse needed window manager.
    • Re:Alternatively... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by iabervon ( 1971 )
      I actually have "screen" in my .profile, which saves typing that command every time. I also find it nice to have screen as the only interface to that machine; there's a pleasing continuity of interaction with it, like being logged in on the (console) virtual terminals whenever I sit down at the machine (by SSH). If you explicitly start screen, there's a prompt before you're in your screen session, which doesn't follow this illusion.

      Oh, and I much prefer -x to -D -R; with -x, if you are using multiple machi
  • Excellent (Score:3, Funny)

    by Hard_Code ( 49548 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @08:47AM (#5880625)
    Wow...welcome to 1993.
  • Go to the twin web site and just watch that web counter go....

    I hope that it automatically goes to a 5th digit...

  • Well, this isn't exactly getting rid of X but it would silence all the people who screaming about X's supposed bloat.

    I just stumbled across Kdrive [] (not related to KDE) which is a _TINY_ X server written by well know X hacker Keith Packard.

    Here's a listing of top from the RULE [] (another cool minimal Linux project) web site running Kdrive and Moz. Kind of a funny contrast really. :-)

    792 mfratoni 15 0 22756 22M 12384 S 15.3 59.8 1:19 mozilla-bin
    720 root 15 0 7192 3600 1148 S 10.0 9.5
  • YAXA? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by oldmanmtn ( 33675 )
    Yet Another X Alternative? Must be Monday.

    Seriously, people have been announcing plans to replace X with something lighter weight for roughly 20 years now. Every time one of the projects gets far enough along to slap together a web site and a half-assed demo, you guys fall all over yourselves to promote it.

    This may finally be the project that gets it right, and 10 years from now it will deliver something that is generally useful. Until then, it probably doesn't need to be on the front page of /..
  • Any discussion of making the console a user friendly environment for the mouse wielding masses must take a look at the Arachne Web Browser and Internet Suite []. Originally developed for DOS, and included with the FreeDOS distro, Arachne's creator has been working on a Linux port (based on SVGAlib & GGI lib) for a while now - but it is still a beta release. You can also of course run the DOS version in an emulator from the Linux console.

    In addition to Web browsing and email, it can also be used as a fron
  • by reallocate ( 142797 ) on Monday May 05, 2003 @10:43AM (#5881685)
    At least visually, Twin is reminiscent of Desqview.

    Ah, the distant memories....Desqview on a DOS machine with a few megs of "Expanded Memeory" : Brief in one window, a Borland compiler in another, Lotus Magellan in a third window, and maybe a debugger somewhere.

    Good stuff, all of 'em.
  • i remember the //e rom upgrade had some windowing extras built into it. the /// also had something similar. the mac pretty much killed it that progress. no login capabilites for the apple 2 series that i remember though

Forty two.